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Salem Child Selected to Go to The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team’s Kids CampKevin Hays Salem-News.com
Annie Flood is one of 20 kids From across America to be coached by Afghanistan & Iraq War Veterans.
(SALEM, Ore. ) - Annie Flood from Salem is one of 20 children from across America selected to participate in the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team’s second annual Kids Camp. All the children selected have amputations or are missing limbs.
Flood and the other kids will be coached by members of the WWAST, all veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who have amputations but have faced and conquered their challenges to athletically compete at a high level. They serve as an inspiration to all who see them play and will certainly inspire these children. The camp will be held in Louisville, Ky., and will culminate with a game between the kids at Louisville Slugger Field, the 13,000-seat home of the Louisville Bats, the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, on Friday, June 13.
“Since we started touring in 2011, we’ve been inviting young, local amputees to serve as batboys and batgirls at our games across the country,” said WWAST Coach David Van Sleet. “You wouldn’t believe the positive impact a single game can make on them. To have a full five days to work with and inspire these kids – kids who are at such an impressionable age – is one of the most amazing opportunities we could have asked for.”
The camp will consist of daily clinics during which WWAST players and coaches will teach the kids all aspects of softball, from hitting, running and catching, to team-play and sportsmanship. While the clinics will cover the basics, these are no ordinary lessons.
“Suffering a life-altering injury is traumatic and scary, there’s no doubt about that,” said Van Sleet. “But it’s our mission to show people that life-altering doesn’t have to mean life-ending. It’s still possible to follow your passions after an injury. You just have to take a different approach. And that’s what our guys are here to teach these kids.”
By “different approach,” Van Sleet alludes to his team’s unique style of play, a creative adaption the wounded veterans had to make in order to continue playing softball. Campers can learn from seasoned WWAST players like Greg Reynolds, a left-arm amputee who has learned how to one-handedly catch a pop-fly, toss off his glove and throw the ball home in one fluid motion, or from Josh Wege, a double-amputee who can chase down a grounder on two prosthetic legs.
The WWAST Kids Camp idea came from Susan Rodio, a longtime WWAST volunteer. Rodio noticed what a positive influence the team had on young amputees and decided to take it a step further.
“It just seemed like a natural fit to further our mission of educating and inspiring the public,” said Rodio. “What better group to inspire than these kids who face some of the same challenges as our players. Another plus we discovered in the first year of our camp was the way the kids and their families all bonded with each other – they had so much in common because of the obstacles they have faced. It was heartwarming to witness as they realized they are not alone.”
“Life without a limb is limitless. That’s our motto.” said Van Sleet. “Thanks to these incredible veterans, our sponsors and our fans, we’ve been able to spread that message for a little over three years now. The first camp in Orlando last year was remarkable. We expect it to be even better in Louisville this year.”
In addition to softball instruction, the kids and their families will visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and Churchill Downs – the home of the Kentucky Derby – as well as other Louisville attractions like the Muhammad Ali Center and Kentucky Kingdom. The kids will also watch the WWAST play two softball games.
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